The establishment parties in Germany are bracing themselves for what is expected to be a major breakthrough by the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party this coming Sunday in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Polls indicate that the AfD might come first, defeating both Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party and her socialist party coalition partners, the SPD.
The AfD has used the Third World invasion crisis to woo disaffected voters and makes it very clear who it thinks is responsible for the country’s problems: Merkel.
“The refugee crisis has helped us, there’s little question about that,” Leif-Erik Holm, the AfD’s lead candidate in the regional election, said.
The CDU and SPD are still hoping to maintain their rule in the state, but are wary of the previous state election in March in Saxony-Anhalt, where the AfD won 24 percent. It finished second in that ballot and hopes to go one further this time.
Whatever happens, the AfD will almost certainly enter its ninth state parliament out of 16. Number 10 will likely follow two weeks later when voters go to the polls in Berlin.
The changing face of German politics was on display when Merkel traveled to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in mid-August to meet with farmers, traditionally staunch supporters of her conservatives.
The chancellor was well prepared, telling farmers she would support their use of the weed killer glyphosate, answering questions about security regulations, and describing in great detail how impressed she was by a combine harvester in front of the farm.
However, as soon as it came to question time, only one theme came to the fore.
“I’m not just a farmer, I am also a worried citizen,” one man told Merkel. “Please use your power so that our children will have a safe future.”
At a campaign event in Schwerin a day later, Björn Höcke, one of the AfD’s regional leaders, spoke in the main square. The former teacher was asked to give his opinions on education, but went much further, being cheered for comments such as “I would like to live in a democratic state based on the rule of law. This is why I say ‘No’ to a multicultural society,” and “we can’t take this unbearable dictator of a chancellor anymore.”
“First, it was the Euro-Retterei, the [flawed] rescue of the euro, then it was the energy transformation with Merkel overtaking even the Green Party, and then—which marks the low point—the refugee crisis, which caused a fear among people about what else might come,” he said. “Those crises were managed poorly, and there was no conservative alternative [to the ruling parties.]”
At the AfD campaign event in Schwerin, there were protesters holding up signs against the “lying press” and the “warmonger United States.”
An architect from Hamburg, who refused to give his name, said he was there to complain about what he called the “step-by-step Islamization” of Germany. One woman said she wanted to protest against “gender mainstreaming,” such as schoolchildren being taught about homosexuality. All agreed that the Merkel invasion policy had to stop.
The event ended with the crowd chanting, “Merkel muss weg” (Merkel has to go).
For a decade, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has been governed by a “grand coalition” of the SPD and CDU. The AfD claims there is no longer a difference between the two big beasts, thanks to Merkel’s “social democratization” of her party as she opened the doors to refugees from Syria and the wider Middle East. “We basically replace the old CDU, because Ms. Merkel moved it too far to the left,” Holm said, echoing comments from the national party leadership.
At the last state elections, in 2011, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) won 6 percent of the votes and took seats in the state parliament.
If the AfD becomes the strongest party in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the other parties will almost certainly club together to block it. But the effect will still be huge.
“If we end up becoming the strongest party in the parliament, this will have an enormous effect [on the national stage],” the AfD’s Leif-Erik Holm said. “There also seems to be pressure now [on Merkel] to move further toward our direction—the question is if she wants to do that.”